While caladium plants might not be the most common in a garden, their gorgeous, multi-colored foliage will brighten any backyard. Caladium is a tropical plant but if you live in a colder area, don’t worry. Not only will we explain how to plant caladium outdoors, but we’ll offer some tips about indoor growing, too.
When to plant caladium: Caladium has gorgeous foliage that comes in a range of green, white, and red. This tropical plant can grow year-round outdoors, but only if you don’t have freezing temperatures during the winter. If you do experience cold winters, you will need to dig the tubers up in the fall, properly store them, and then plant them again in the spring. Caladium tubers need plenty of warmth when first planting them, so wait until the soil temperature is consistently warm, as well as the overnight temperature. Plant the bulbs in either shade or sun, depending on the variety. As an alternative, caladium is a great indoor plant. The consistently warm temperatures indoors mean you don’t have to worry about the tubers being destroyed in the winter. Furthermore, the colorful foliage means you can have pops of color in your home all year long.
Planting Caladium Bulbs in Different Climates
The perfect climate for caladium is a tropical climate. This plant is native to tropical areas.
It likes warm weather, moist soil, and consistent temperatures. With a tropical climate, you can leave the caladium outside in your garden year-round.
A dry climate is probably not the best for caladium. Even if the daytime temperatures are warm, the nighttime temperatures can really fluctuate. It may be best to plant your caladium in an indoor container in this climate.
Caladium will do well in a temperate climate. You don’t want to take too many risks, however, when it comes to winter care.
Even if your winter temperatures only hover around freezing, this may be too cold for your plants. It might be best to get in the habit of digging up the tubers in the fall to protect them from rotting during the winter.
You can certainly plant caladium in a continental climate but the cold winters mean you will need to dig the tubers up every fall. If this seems like too much work, planting caladium in a container and keeping it indoors is a solid alternative.
As a native, tropical plant, caladium will not grow in a polar climate. There is simply not enough warmth to sustain it.
Choosing Caladium Bulbs
With white leaves and intricate green veins that run through them, this is a real showstopper. This variety can grow between 12 and 24 inches in length and likes partial shade or full sun.
With bold contrasting colors of red and green, this variety is like having Christmas all year long. The plant can grow up to 24 inches and you want ample spacing between other plants to allow the roots space to grow.
Those that can’t decide on just one color will love this variety. The white background of the leaves is a perfect contrast for the green and red speckles and the darker green rim around the edges brings it all together.
With a snow-white feel to it, this variety is fancy and appealing. The white centers of the leaves are in contrast to the green edges, making this a great pairing with other varieties.
How to Plant Caladium Bulbs
It might be tempting to simply grab the nearest package of caladium bulbs in your gardening center but a bit of focus can help you out in the long run. These plants are often graded based on size.
The bulbs, also known as tubers, are categorized by how long they are. If you have a Grade 1, they are the longest and measure between 1.5 and 2.5 inches long. There are also Grade 2 and Grade 3 categories that further diminish in size.
With a longer size comes more growing points, also known as eyes. Gardeners that want to start off with an abundance of foliage would do best to purchase Grade 1 caladium that has multiple eyes. The result will be a bushier plant.
If you already have your caladium purchased, or you don’t have the option of sizes, there’s no need to panic. Eventually, the caladium plant will grow more eyes and you will have new foliage each successive year.
It can be hard to find colorful plants for shadier spots in your garden, which is why caladium is such a versatile plant. You can indeed plant it in full shade or partial shade.
Some varieties are actually ok with full sun. However, you should carefully research the variety you want to purchase to see exactly where you should plant it.
Outdoors vs Indoors
The next decision you need to make when planting caladium is whether it will thrive outdoors or not. This is a tropical plant and needs to live in hardiness zones 9 to 11.
If you have winters with freezing temperatures, your caladium will not survive.
Like other types of tubers and bulbs, you can dig caladium up in the fall, store it over winter, and then replant it in the spring. This can be a bit time-consuming but worth it if you simply love caladium.
One thing to remember is that if you don’t get around to this step or simply don’t want to, you can leave the caladium in the ground. The tubers will naturally disintegrate in the cold, wet soil during the winter.
As mentioned, caladium is a tropical plant. Therefore, it needs nice, warm soil to get started.
Wait until the end of spring, such as late May or early June, before you plant your tubers in the ground.
While caladium may simply stay dormant in the soil until it warms up, there is a risk of root rot if you plant too early. It’s best to wait until the soil temperature is at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Those that want a head start can plant their caladium tubers inside about six weeks before planting season.
Caladium will spread out as it matures so you want to leave at least 6 inches between each plant. For hole depth, 3 inches should be plenty.
You should cover the tubers with about one inch of soil but don’t add too much. You can also decide if you want to clump your tubers together or spread them out for a pattern.
How to Water Caladium Bulbs
Try your best to recreate a tropical environment with caladium plants. This includes moist soil but not dirt that is fully saturated.
The tubers of caladium are susceptible to root rot so if there isn’t adequate drainage, or there is too much water, you can damage the tubers.
In your first year of growing caladium, it is best to continually test the soil by hand to get a feel for how much water your plants need. You can also look at the foliage and if it is drooping or looks weak, this can be a sign of both under-watering and overwatering.
How to Grow Caladium Bulbs
If you have continuously warm temperatures, your caladium will continue to produce its leaves. These will start to die, only to be regrown again.
As part of a natural routine with your garden, you can remove any dead or dying foliage every few weeks.
A fun way to prune your caladium is by cutting it down at the base of the stems to add to a floral arrangement. The bright colors are so lovely you can even make a simple bouquet out of the leaves themselves.
Caladium plants don’t often produce flowers, although if it is warm enough, they will. This plant will expel a lot of energy on the large, colorful leaves, so the regular addition of fertilizer is important.
Aim to apply a liquid fertilizer to the soil around your caladium once a month. If there is space, you can also add compost to the garden area.
As long as you live in a warm area, you can leave your caladium in the ground over winter. While some plants need insulation over winter, because you can only leave these plants in the ground for very mild winters, they will be just fine how they are.
How long do caladium bulbs take to grow?
Caladium tubers should be planted in the spring, but you will want to wait until the soil and the overnight temperatures are consistently warm. You will have foliage growing by summer.
This is a perennial plant and will grow and become bushier each subsequent year.
Even though caladium doesn’t often produce flowers, its multi-colored leaves are a real sight to behold. This is a tropical plant and while you can plant the tubers in the spring outside, if you get cold winters it is best to plant caladium in a container and keep it inside.